Listen Up: Wednesday, November 16, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
R. Kelly

Trapped in the Closet, Parts 1-12 (Jive/Zomba DVD’s)

By Jimmy Fowler

Many readers are probably more familiar with singer R. Kelly as an accused statutory rapist awaiting trial than as the creator of sly, insinuating horn-dog opuses like “Sex Weed” and “I Like the Crotch on You.” He’s perfected the persona of the love thug — if Luther Vandross had had a potty mouth and carried an automatic, he’d have been R. Kelly’s mentor.

With the DVD release of his12-part (and continuing) music video soap operetta, Trapped in the Closet, Parts 1-12, Mr. Kelly may earn himself a whole new fan demographic: folks who aren’t crazy about hip hop-inflected R&B but can’t get enough of the man’s weird, wild-ass sense of humor and surprisingly sophisticated view of human frailty.

Listeners of black radio were already familiar with the five-part, plot-driven “Trapped in the Closet” song from the man’s recent release, TP.3 Reloaded. Each segment ended with a cliffhanger concerning the romantic plights of the characters Kelly sang about: Which married man turns out to be gay? Which black dude is secretly getting his freak on with a white woman? Whose skanky-ass wig is that lying on the floor? Co-directed by Kelly and Jim Swaffield, the video versions of Trapped in the Closet have a modest but effective graphic-novel look and raise the antics to a thrilling comic high. All dialogue is sung by Kelly and lip-synched by the other actors, who soon find themselves crossing the border into Twin Peaks territory (cinched by the lady with the midget fetish). The magnanimous spirit of Trapped in the Closet is: Most of us are hiding sexual secrets of some kind, and betrayal may be the one thing everybody has in common. Whatever his ultimate legal fate, R. Kelly the vocalist-storyteller-producer-director has proven himself a consummate entertainer in the old-school, Renaissance Man-style.


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